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‘Mandy’ is a psychedelic horror masterpiece
It’s not getting any warmer or nicer in the Northland, so staying in and watching movies is certainly a great way to pass these winter months. Whether you rent at one of the few video stores left (there are still some in Superior and Ashland), checking out Red Box, or downloading or streaming off the internet, there’s plenty of flicks to enjoy while trying to stay warm and occupied. It’s my goal to give you a heads up to new DVD/Blu-ray releases that have come out in the last month and hopefully they are worth your while.
I’m starting these reviews with a real winner, and that is the psychedelic horror-action movie, “Mandy.” If you’re into horror movies, this might be one to consider just buying and adding it to the collection because you’ll probably want to watch it again at some point. Yes, in my opinion, it’s that good. Nicholas Cage plays Red Miller, a recovering alcoholic logger living in the woods with his girlfriend, Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough. Things are pretty great for these two until this blissful yet mundane reality turns into a dark and twisted horror fantasy.
They are not alone in the woods. Enter a psychotic Christian cult lead by Jeremiah Sand, as played by Linus Roache, and a drug-fueled demonic biker gang that seems like they rolled off the set of “Hellraiser” to act as the antagonists for this grisly revenge film. The arrogant cult leader becomes infatuated with Mandy and with the help of the biker gang, Black Skulls, they kidnap her and Red in hopes of making her a drugged-out follower. *Spoiler Alert* Sand and his followers kill her in front of Red when she rejects joining them and thus sets off Red’s rampage of violence that explodes ceaselessly for the rest of the movie.
While this premise is fairly simple it’s really the vivid and ethereal added cinematic effects, animated sequences (think the animated movie “Heavy Metal”) and plenty of visceral violence to kick things off the deep end for the viewer. The movie is a trip to watch as everything is portrayed in a dreamlike, or rather, drug-induced state. It’s as stunning and beautiful as it is shocking and brutal as Red exacts revenge upon the gang and cult.
It’s hard to imagine the role of Red being played by anyone else but Cage. There’s a nearly comical scene where he has a total alcohol-fueled breakdown in which he is just hysterical after Mandy’s death. The movie might have been made a little lighter by having an actor like Bruce Campbell making snarky one-liners, but aside from things like the Cheese Goblin (just watch the movie), the film stays straight-faced and vicious. The final scene of the movie leaves Cage grinning in wide-eyed insanity.
Besides the movie being visually incredible, the soundtrack by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson shifts from dark ambient synths to gritty metal instrumentals. The mood is decidedly edgy and menacing.
It’s not everyday, or even every year, a horror film hits with such an intense and artistic impact, but if you’re willing to take this trip, “Mandy” really delivers a mind-bending experience.
A campy Christmas slasher with ‘Mother Krampus 2’
Here’s one that you might want to put on after the kids go to bed during Christmas break. “Mother Krampus 2: Slay Ride” is directed by Eddie Lengyel who has made some not-so-big films such as “Hellweek” and “Scarred.” Before the title credits even begin, the death toll of this movie goes up to four. Enjoy that because there’s a lot of almost needless plot buildup and dialog for a good chunk of time until the hacking and gore continues.
As the story goes, several women (one trans woman included) are on their last day of probation around Christmas. As part of their conditions they are spending the holiday working at a soup kitchen and then go caroling in the community later. They stop at a home and get invited in by an older woman, but little do they know she’s a murdering psychopath who has just killed the family living in that home earlier in the movie.
It should be noted that this is a slasher movie and not a creature movie like the totally unrelated film “Krampus.” The movie plays on films like “Halloween,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th” and “Silent Night Deadly Night,” but it’s not as good as any of them. There’s plenty of gore but not a lot of imagination to the killings, which mostly involve a fireman’s axe. The gore effects are passable but not exactly realistic so as to be disturbing.
I have not seen the first “Mother Krampus,” but it’s rated even lower than this movie on IMDb. So I’m not sure I’ll ever work up the motivation to watch it, as the story lines have nothing to do with each other. If you want a campy slasher movie, this might be a good pick. If you hate these kinds of movies, well, you’re not missing out on a whole lot.